The League of Quality Superhero Animation plugs “Crisis on Two Earths” at Paley Center

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It’s an old story. You’re a superhero minding your own business and then you bump into someone who looks very familiar but, well, something’s just not right. Gee whiz but this person looks a lot like you and is even wearing similar clothes, but then you notice your new acquaintance looks like he or she is made from rocks, uses terrible grammar and does everything the opposite of you. (“Me want to not save world!”) Or the newcomer looks like one of your deadliest enemies, but turns out to be no Bizaaro, but as heroic as you are. What’s a superhero to do?

It’s an old superhero comic story that has yet to find its way into a big-time costumed-hero flicks — but at least it’s finally been used in a solidly entertaining and often slyly funny direct-to-DVD animated production. Rated a mild PG-13 for non-deadly “action violence,” Warner Home Video’s “Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths” shows us the fall-out of an alternate universe where the equivalents of our most famed superheros are essentially costumed Mafioso, while a bald guy named Luthor and a joker named the Jester vainly fight the power of organized caped crime.

When the alternate Luthor (Chris Noth) manages a reality jump into the original DC Comics Universe, he enlists the aid of  most of the Justice League. And so, Superman (Mark Harmon), Wonder Woman (Vanessa Marshall), and a less than cooperative Batman (William Baldwin), become involved in a desperate quest to free Good Luthor’s universe from super-powered criminal domination by the vicious Crime Syndicate and it’s Jersey-thug-like leader, Ultraman (Brian Bloom) — and also to stave off the possible destruction of all existence by an off-his-evil meds Dark Knight of the Soul, Owlman (James Woods), and his only slightly more sane GF, Super Woman (Gina Torres).

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The 72 minute direct-to-video feature was premiered at both of the coastal outlets of the Paley Center, and I attended the one located on Earth Prime’s Beverly Hills. Us members of the local geek press were allowed to commune with members of the cast and crew and, in my case, that started with the extremely busy animation casting and voice director, Andrea Romano. The loquacious performer and voice director, whose work includes everything from “Animaniacs” to “Spongebob Squarepants” and “Ben Ten,” is held in as high esteem by super-animation fans as any actor, writer, or director. Her work on DC superhero projects goes back to the early nineties and “Batman: The Animated Series,” which revolutionized superhero cartoons with quality writing from creators like Bruce Timm and Paul Dini, animation, and, thanks to her efforts, acting.

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An A to Z of Last-Minute Gifts for the TV Geek in Your Life

Got a TV geek on your Christmas list but don’t know what to get them because you’re petrified that they might already have all the obvious picks? As someone who falls into that demographic (and therefore has to make a very explicit list for my family every year), I understand where you’re coming from, so please allow me to do my part to help but you and the poor bastard you’re waiting ’til the last second to shop for. Sure, the list is a little all-over-the-place, but all of these items have landed in stores since last Christmas, and…hey, at least it’s in alphabetical order!

1. Adam 12: Season Two – Rescued from Universal’s indifference by the good folks at Shout! Factory, it holds up about as well as any show produced by Jack Webb (which is to say that the acting is more than a little stilted), but it’s been tricked out with commentaries from actual Los Angeles police officers, which make for entertaining and interesting listening.

2. Beauty and the Beast: The Complete Series – Ron Perlman may be best known these days for his work in FX’s “Sons of Anarchy” and the “Hellboy” franchise, just as Linda Hamilton is probably destined to be remembered as the definitive Sarah Connor, but once upon a time, they were the stars of a rather unlikely romance on CBS. This complete-series set offers little new for those who’ve already purchased the individual season sets except an interactive trivia game, some “newly reconstructed love letters” from Vincent which don’t sound like they’re being read by Perlman, and a nice looking box, but it’s a strange, fanciful, and romantic show that your mom, wife, sister, or…oh, hell, even you might like it.

3. Comedy Central’s TV Funhouse – Given that it takes the style of a kids show from the early ’70s and blends it with dark, surreal, and sometimes downright filthy humor, it’s only halfway surprising that this series didn’t find a following, but it will undoubtedly come to be remembered as one of the great lost comedy classics of the decade. Robert Smigel obsessives will notice that a few things are missing from the show’s original airing, but there’s still plenty here to make you laugh and groan for hours.

4. Drak Pak: The Complete Series – Sometimes, you include an item for personal reasons, but the idea of the kids of Dracula, the Wolfman, and Frankenstein’s Monster teaming up to form a crime-fighting team that battles against a guy who looks suspiciously like Vincent Price is one that had me watching every Saturday morning. Sadly, it only lasted a single season, and watching it now, I can kind of see why, but it’s still a fun flashback for those who remember the show from its original run.

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